NRL gives bunker power to step in on field-goal shots

Scott Bailey |

The NRL has given the bunker the power to step in and rule on any field goal this season.
The NRL has given the bunker the power to step in and rule on any field goal this season.

The NRL has given the bunker the power to step in and rule on any field goal this season, with a stricter position to be taken on kick blockers.

AAP has been told that field-goal attempts will be treated in the same way as tries in 2024, with every shot to be reviewed by the bunker before play restarts.

It means that when an on-field referee awards a field goal, the bunker will automatically begin reviewing the play and have the power to overturn the call.

Included in the bunker’s remit will be to see if the ball went between the posts, if the kick was taken from outside the 40-metre line, and if defenders were obstructed.

If a field-goal attempt misses but the ball goes dead, the bunker will also be able to check for foul play and if the markers were square when pressuring the kicker.

If bunker officials find any potential illegal play, they will tell on-field referees to delay the restart until a formal decision is made.

There is no option to check if the defensive line were offside, or if they left early.

While the option was theoretically there previously for the bunker to step in, that had not been the case. 

But a greater emphasis on rule adherence around field goals means the video officials are now expected to.

It is the potential to rule on kick blockers that could have the most significant impact on games and lead to multiple field goals being denied.

The NRL has warned that attackers who loiter around the ruck to block defenders from putting pressure on kickers will be spotted by the bunker and penalised.

In a video compiled last week by the NRL, head of football Graham Annesley pointed to multiple examples of field goals that would be denied in 2024.

Included in those were when attackers stood next to or near the play-the-ball, forcing defenders  to run around them to get to the kicker.

“This is something that has got progressively worse over time, and one where we need to enforce the existing rule,” Annesley said in the video.

“Players don’t have to be a certain number of metres behind the ruck. 

“But there is also a rule which talks about deliberately obstructing another player not in possession of the ball. 

“If the players are forming that kind of blocking action … the referee … and the bunker can determine that is an obstruction, and penalise for that.”

Annesley said penalties would only be called if kick blockers had got in the way of chasers.

On-field referees will also be able to send field-goal reviews upstairs, before they make any decision.

Amid other considerations for 2024, the bunker will still have no power to rule on forward passes.

There were calls last year for video officials to be able to review passes, but an off-season review determined it remained too difficult.

Meanwhile, the NRL has also confirmed a penalty will still be awarded for kick-offs that go out on the full behind the dead-ball line.

New rules brought in for this season for play-the-balls for incorrect restarts will only be applied for kicks that were intended to be contested by both teams.

And the league has received good news on the bunker for the Las Vegas season opener, with technical checks clearing the one in Sydney to be used for the March 2 double-header.

AAP